The other evening I was looking for something to do after work, so I went for a boat ride. Some folks with the day off had been taken out earlier that morning by boat to hike Lagorce Mountain, which is just across Naknek Lake from Brooks Camp. They needed to be picked up by boat on the other side of the mountain when they were finished and so I said “Oooh, can I go along for the ride? Please please please please please???” I volunteered to be the pilot’s second set of eyes.
So around 6:30 that evening I borrowed a pair of size 10 (men’s!) knee-high neoprene Muck Boots and proceeded to further arrange myself into an emergency red-orange “float coat” – basically a parka that has morphed itself into a life preserver. Two pairs of socks, rain pants over sweat pants, a fleece top, gloves and a tie-dye do-rag completed the ensemble. I didn’t bring the camera because I knew it would be a wild ride.
There was a low cloud ceiling and a fine misty drizzle as we pulled away from Brooks Camp beach. I radioed the hikers and told them we would see them in about 45 minutes. The lake was fairly calm even though there was a bit of a breeze coming through the break in the moraine to the east. As we gained speed and crossed the water I just sat there in the bow of the boat feeling like Katherine Hepburn in “The African Queen.” There is a similarity here, if only in my mind. Humor me.
We sped west up Naknek Lake and soon made a wide 180 degree turn into the North Arm of the lake to come up on the other side of Lagorce, which meant we were now headed east and into the wind. Oh my – that calm glassy lake surface quickly disappeared as we moved into choppier waters and a bit of headwind. It did cross my mind that if I fell out of the boat I would most likely not sink while wearing that monstrous float coat, but I surely would die of hypothermia if the pilot happened to fly in to the drink with me and the boat sank. Good Godfrey! Stop thinking and enjoy the ride!!!
We of course were fine because the pilot was a trained professional. Not a professional boat pilot but he knew how to handle the boat so that’s all that mattered. The scenery was of course Alaska spectacular with distant mountains showing off their massive U-shaped valleys, reminders of past glaciers. I just can’t get enough of these U-shaped valleys – in my next reincarnation I want to come back as one.
We found the hikers on the appropriate beach, loaded them into the boat and sped back to Brooks. Now we were going downwind – still in the chop but not as bad as in the other direction. But soon we did another 180 and turned back into the wind at the end of the mountain, back into Naknek Lake.
By the time we returned to Brooks I figured my spine had compressed about 2 inches from bouncing over the waves while sitting on the simply adequate plywood seat of the boat. Slowly floating in towards the visitor center, we watched as a brown bear strolled along the beach about a quarter of a mile down from our take-out spot.
It was just another fine misty drizzly day at Katmai.
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